Saturday, December 9, 2006

drawing on the tablecloth

The best thing about going to some restaurants is that they use paper tablecloths and provide you with crayons to draw on it. I made 2 drawings at dinner last night. I liked the flower and bumblebee one so much I put it on a T-shirt!

Draw on the tablecloth this weekend - it will make you feel like a kid again!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Portfolio Review

I worked like crazy to get ready for my portfolio review - 12+ hours a day for a week, and even turning down fun things, like having coffee with Sascha. But it paid off.

I had reviews with 2 people, and they both went well, but one of them was the best portfolio review I've ever had! Not only did the AD like my stuff, but...

I made the bulletin board!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, being on the bulletin board is a huge deal - way better than having your samples on file. If your postcard is up, all the editors and other ADs can see it when they walk by. If they are looking for an artist and your art catches their eye, there's a good chance you could get asked to illustrate a book!!!!!

But even better than that, we went through my portfolio and talked about what worked and what didn't work for children's books, and why. So now I have a direction to go with my art and 2 styles that work for children's books! It was great to get concrete answers on my artwork, as I've struggled for a while to find a style that works with children's books. Yay!!!

Saturday, November 4, 2006

Character Names

Do you have a specific process for naming your characters?

I used to name my characters the first thing that popped into my head. They were usually generic names or people I knew.

Then I started to check popular first names from roughly the same age as my characters (or maybe a little younger, to factor in time to get the story published). This allows me to pick a name that's right for the character and also one that might be the name of the child reading my book.

You can check out popularity of names in the US here: http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames/
It also has a nice feature where you can look up a specific name and see how popular it was in which years.

After I have a first name, I make up a last name. Sometimes I'll look up the last name here: http://names.mongabay.com/most_common_surnames.htm to see what I find.

Lately I've added a new naming twist. I look up the full name on google - to see what comes up. If the name is famous or associated with adult themed things, I pick a different last name and start over.

And sometimes I still pick names just because I like them, whether they are popular or not - some names just fit certain characters.

So, how do you name your characters?

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

vampire song

Vampires!
Hope you all had a Happy Halloween! We stayed home and gave out candy to gobs of trick-or-treaters, and I made up a Halloweenie song. It's been going through my head since last night.

(sing to the tune of We Are The Champions, by Queen)

We are the vampires, my friend

And we'll keep on biting to the end

We are the vampires

We are the vampires

No time for mortals

'Cause we are the vampires

Of the dark

Friday, October 13, 2006

Did you ever ...

Did you ever have an idea you thought was so great that you weren't sure you could pull it off?

This week DH and I have been out of town. We went on our annual apple picking trip - mmmmmm, apples :0). While we were gone, I worked a little bit on my MG every day, even if it was just a few lines, or notes on what I wanted to do with the plot or characters.

Then on Wednesday, I got the most amazing idea for my book (well, at least I think it's a cool idea). The kind of idea that you think should be given to an amazing writer - one that can actually pull something like this off. But I decided to go for it anyway and see if I can write it.

I've had ideas I didn't think I could pull off before with ideas for paintings. When they've worked, it's usually some hybrid of my original idea, morphed into something even better. When I can't do it, it's usually awful (but sometomes worth starting over and trying again).

So, I'm thinking that even if my first draft of the MG is awful, maybe I can make it better in revisions so that it works.

Crossing my fingers!!!!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

illustrations in dragonflyspirit

With everything going on this month, I almost forgot to announce that I have 2 illustrations in Dragonfly Spirit magazine this month! I illustrated 2 poems:

Flash Tag by Joanne Linden

AND

Under an Autumn Sky by Guy Belleranti

The whole issue is great! Check it out: http://www.dragonflyspirit.com

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

phrase of the day

Maintenance guy in our office today:

"The first thing a bunch of Steves are gonna do when they come in, is take a book." Huh?

It took me a second to realize that he meant "thieves" and not "Steves." At least I don't have to be on the lookout for guys named Steve! hee hee

But my phrase for the day is: Watch out for Steves!

Monday, September 11, 2006

back to work

Back to work today, and the slush pile was waiting for me like a long lost friend.

It's lunch time already, and I've managed to go through a few manuscripts, see a ton of fire trucks (and a fire), and have the UPS guy stop while I'm trying to eat (I'm guessing the USPS lady will be by before my food is finished).

And when I went out a little while ago, the lobby was playing the theme song from the Young and the Restless, I got to see the clothes from Project Runway at Macy's, and hear a Beatles type band singing at Penn Station - and I was only gone for about 5 minutes!

While I'm eating lunch, I'm going to do some sketches for the graphic novel project too.

Happy Monday everyone!

Monday, September 4, 2006

Top 10 List

We just got back from the beach. It was a good vacation, although different from other years. For one thing, I didn't read any books! I read old CWIM articles and sent 48 promo postcards instead. I also brainstormed on my graphic novel and figured out the main conflict in my YA novel. And I learned many new things ...

Top 10 Things I Learned On My Summer Vacation:

1. Totes umbrellas have a lifetime guarantee, even if Ernesto breaks them.

2. Burnt popcorn is a good way to get rid of nasty fish smells left in the freezer by the previous renters.

3. Plain functional toilet handles are better than semi-nonfunctional decorative handles.

4. Don’t eat ice cream if it tastes bad (no matter how much you want ice cream).

5. If everyone gets sick - the car, you, your husband, and your cat - you can still have a fun vacation.

6. You can plan your walks on the beach and boardwalk around the rain.

7. Crickets are annoying (I already knew this one, but it bears repeating).

8. Skunks like to visit the beach; leave them alone and they will leave you alone.

9. Transformers sound like firecrackers when they blow.

10. Packing by candlelight in the middle of a storm is an adventure.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

thank you and website

A huge THANK YOU!!! to everyone for their suggestions and support for helping to banish my evil inner editor. Ultimately, I decided to send the evil inner editor to the naughty chair for a while, and now I'm at 9500 words! I haven't put my count in for today yet, so I'm hoping to be well over 10k by the end of the day. We are leaving for a week of vacation on Saturday. I don't know if I'll get any writing done at the beach, but I'm going to try.

Yesterday ended up not being a writing day, because there was something loud going on in the next room and I couldn't concentrate. So I took the opportunity to finish my new website buttons and update a few more things. I still have stuff to do, but I'm happy with what's up so far. Check out my new website buttons if you have time: http://www.sruble.com

Also, I put up a preview picture for the new graphic novel I'm working on (just sketches and notes right now, because my novel has priority, but I'm having fun with the graphic novel so far). Does it look interesting? Or just weird?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Evil Inner Editor

Usually I can banish the evil inner voice that tells me that my writing sucks, by convincing it that I know it sucks. Then I fix it when I revise.

The last few days this hasn't been working. I keep thinking that my story is really, really stupid and silly. And maybe it is, but that isn't all bad - some people like to read stupid, silly things. And I can take out the dumb stuff nobody should read later.

I've still managed to do some writing, but I can't seem to get in the groove right now to get what I want done.

I think I need some new tricks to tell my inner editor voice to go away.

Any ideas? How do you banish your evil inner editor?

Friday, August 11, 2006

LA part 2

Highlights and Lowlights from the LA conference (for notes, see my last post).

Highlights

* Having an agent remember my novel from a critique at LA 2 years ago!

* Having the same agent ask me (again) to send her something!

* Getting an excellent portfolio critique with Cecilia Yung - she's so helpful, and really knows what she's talking about. Plus, she said she's familiar with my work - gotta love that, especially when there's so much work I need to do with my art.

* Meeting old friends, LJ friends, online friends, and new friends. I will try to list them all here (sort-of in alphabetical order by first name or LJ name): beachalatte , Colleen, cynthea , Deborah Davis, d_michiko_f , Debby Garfinkle, Emily Jiang, Flora, Gail (from the Blue Board), Greg Trine (Melvin Beederman), jenlyn_b , Jennifer, jo_no_anne , jodyfeldman , Jodi R., Kim T., Kerry Madden, Laura Murray, Leslie Muir, lindajsingleton, Linda Stacey, lisaalbert , marypearson , Rebecca S., Rita Crayon Huang, Sarah Darer Littman, Stephanie (the other Stephanie from NY!), Suzanne Penchina, tamarak ... and I hope I didn't forget people in trying to type this all up!

* An epiphany on a problem in my old novel (yay!), which led to figuring out the whole new plot, and now I even have an outline of sorts!

* Figuring out where I want to go with my career.

* I actually won the joke contest! For the first time ever! (with help from my husband) It was all about saying inappropriate things at the conference - mine was a reference to Silence of the Lambs, and something I would NEVER say in real life, except for a joke contest.

* The nice weather!


Lowlights

* Not getting to meet some of the people I was looking for.

* The different colored tags for published / unpublished - I hope they nix that next year.

* Not getting to attend all the sessions I wanted to attend.

* Figuring out where I want to go with my career - I think I made the right choice, but I'm not sure!

* The movie posters I kept seeing at the mall (where the food court is) for that evil Barnyard movie. Don't go see it! The people that made the movie are either dorks or idiots, not sure which. But here's a little lesson in cattle, just in case any of them happen by my blog:
cow = female = udders
bull = male = NO udders!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Notes from LA

There always seems to be themes at the LA conference. This year there were two that I heard over and over.

1. Trust yourself as a writer (or illustrator) and write / illustrate how you want, when you want, what you want. Do whatever sparks your imagination, and write / illustrate the book that you want to read. And remember why you started writing / illustrating in the first place.

2. Advice you get might be right for others, but not for you. Think about the advice before you blindly apply it to your writing or career. And critique groups are great, but don’t mistake them for editors.

I also took notes – not as many as usual, but I think there are some good quotes here – I hope they are useful, but remember theme #2 and only use what works for you. Also, I tried to scribble notes as fast as they were speaking, but I wasn't fast enough! Some of the notes are paraphrased to get the gist of the idea, rather than a direct quote.

Mo Willems
If you notice the work, the work is ruined (backgrounds, etc.). BG shouldn’t detract from the character. Seeming effortlessness is key – writer/illustrator should disappear.

The more you have on a page (visually), the faster it will be to read (out loud). The less you have on a page (visually), the slower it will be read (out loud).

Characters that are enemies are usually similar to each other (Pigeon and Bus Driver both love/want the same thing: love the bus/want to drive it.)

Know your strengths as an illustrator (and writer too) and don’t try to do a book that doesn’t fit your style. If you can’t see it or imagine it, turn the project down. You don’t want to work on something that you can’t do and will turn out awful.

Jodi Reamer
Let the agent do their job, don’t tell them what to do and how to do it (or why do you need the agent?). Let them guide you, and not the other way around. They don’t make the decisions for you, but need to feel like they can guide you through the options.

It’s all about the writing. You can learn as much as you want about the business, but it’s your writing that sells your story.

Working with agent tips: make sure it’s the right one / good relationship, personalities need to mesh, make sure you trust the agent, let them do their job, agents and editors have strong relationships, so let the agent advise you on things the editor suggests or next steps.

Laurent Linn
Illustrations should always have main focus / energy flow from left to right, like we read.

Dummy – don’t make type decisions at this stage – leave it to the book designer. Make it loose / subject to change, just like the art in a dummy.
If it’s a dummy with a story you have written as well, send it to the editor and not the AD.

Beverly Horowitz
Choices you make for the narrative must fit what you need for the story, and not be extraneous details (like prices of things, or pop culture references that will date your book).

You must choose the narrative voice – who is telling the story? (Almost nobody can pull off first person present - if you can write like Tilly Olson’s "I Stand Here Ironing" short story, then …)

Make sure that what you know about the main character that needs to be communicated to the audience is down on the page and not just in your head, so that the reader knows.

Great dialog works forever.

Wendelin Van Draanen
Forget what you are doing wrong when you write – especially with dialog.

Dare to find a voice that works for you.

Watch non-scripted TV and take notes. (The shows suck, but the dialog is great.)

Your subconscious can help you work on your story if you let it / help it out.

At the end of the day, re-read the story (or what you’ve written that day) before you go to bed (instead of watching TV, listening to the radio, etc.). Your mind will work on your book while you sleep.

Re-reading helps keep you in voice.

Girls are interested in more than just fashion and boys.

Mary E. Pearson (She gave us a lot of great quotes to ponder.)
"I think … I think it’s in my basement. Let me go upstairs and check." – M.C. Escher

"There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." – Somerset Maugham

"The devil is in the details." - unknown

"A journey is like a marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it." – John Steinbeck

"I have not failed; I’ve found 10,000 ways that won’t work." – Thomas Edison
"Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first." – Ernestine Ulmer

"A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a joke or worried to death by a frown on the right person’s brow." – Charles Brower, Advertising Executive

When a man wants to murder a tiger, it’s called sport; when the tiger want to murder the man it’s called ferocity." – George Bernard Shaw

Justina Chen Headley and Alvina Ling
Humor – have to be picky with what you leave in – you can’t keep every joke, even though it might be funny.

Trust your editor. If you don’t, they might not be the right editor for you. Put aside your ego and just get down to business.

Trust yourself as an author.

Jane Yolen
Revise = dream again

Cultivate patience. Give yourself the time to settle into your characters. Also, you have to learn to wait in this business, but that should never mean that you stop working.

Don’t believe anyone’s rules. The only one that really counts is "write the damn book."

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

drawing like a kid again

I took a break from working on my portfolio to have dinner with DH at The Outback last night. They had crayons (which DH snagged for me) and I had paper I just bought for my printer, so I got to draw like a kid before my dinner came :0)

I encourage all of you to try drawing like a kid again - it's so much fun!

Now back to work on my portfolio.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Wacky Wednesday Writing Exercise

I sent this to my critique group this week, but I thought you guys might like it too. It all came about because I read the phrase "homicidal leprechauns" in a writing magazine, which made me burst out laughing.

So, here's the exercise...

Write about homicidal leprechauns, or any other word or phrase that you find funny. Write a paragraph or a whole scene, but whatever you do, make it over the top, it can be silly or funny, or just plain weird. And it doesn't have to be funny to anyone but you. It also doesn’t have to be good writing, and to prove it, I’ll post mine.

Funny (at least to me) Headline
The homicidal leprechauns were in the field taking their frustrations out on the pumpkins.

Just Weird (but I had fun writing it)
Leprechauns are not cute little green people with pots of gold stashed under rainbows.

Leprechauns are greedy, nefarious, homicidal little maniacs! The only things on them that are green, are wings that beat too fast for human eyes to see. Their pale grey, almost translucent skin, surrounds beady blood colored eyes sunken into their faces. Hair and clothing are a matching shade of cauldron black, just like the legendary kettles the gold is supposed to be in.

You’ll know there are leprechauns nearby because you’ll see swarms flying around, like tiny vampires out hunting at night, devouring every living thing in their path. The homicidal leprechauns call out to people hiding, promising pots of gold and trips to faerie land. If you hear them call, stay where you are. They won’t follow through with their promises.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Conference Notes

I went to the NY Illustrators Conference on Monday. I thought the dummy reviews were really helpful so I have a few thoughts on those below. I also posted my notes from the panel discussion.

Dummy Review Thoughts
It's all subjective. I had 4 dummy reviews on the same story. There were a few comments that were universal, so those are things that I need to change, but there were also conflicting opinions on some things, and that's where it all comes down to personal taste. So basically you have to decide what's right for your story, and whether you agree with the critiquer or not.

Another interesting thing was that 2 of the critiquers didn't have many suggestions for my dummy. They basically liked the story and illustrations. Since that didn't take much time, I was able to show them a second dummy. They both liked the second dummy better than the first. The second one is much more rough, and still needs lots of work, so the fact that they liked it better gave more credence to the changes for the first dummy suggested by the other two reviewers.

Panel Session:
Lily Malcom – Art Director at Dial
* Been in the business for 12 years.
* The PB market will come full circle. It’s a tough market now, so they have to focus on the bottom line more, but they are still looking for fresh new talent.
* Doesn’t want to see landscapes, still life paintings, etc in a portfolio
* Likes to see people, animals, emotion (humor, sadness,etc.), visual narration (with different levels of stuff going on in a scene).
* Acceptability of digital art depends on style. She doesn’t like just computery art, but if it’s more than that and shows some art sense, that’s good. Also like combination of digital and non.
* Portfolio mistakes: too many styles in one portfolio, with only 1-2 pieces in each style. If you have multiple pieces – enough to really show that you are capable in each style, then it’s it’s ok to show more than one style.
* Lily gets 10-15 art samples a day, and many are repeat artists that she has worked with before.
* She has Tuesday portfolio drop offs.
* It’s not always that the illustrations aren’t good, it’s more just whether it’s right for Dial or not.
* Marketing and sales has a say in illustrations/books, and Barnes and Noble sometimes has a say in it too.
* On the other hand, marketing and sales are in the field and can bring back insight on market and what’s selling.
* Publishes first time illustrators a lot (3-4 new illustrators out of about 20 or so books a year).
* Send in complete PB ms when subbing.
* Illustration beats a query letter. SASE for sample returns if needed.
* Loves double whammy of author/illustrator, but try not to walk away if they want text and not art.
* Do homework and see if the publisher will take your kind of work.
* Look for honest criticism (other artists, critique group, etc. not mom or friend who knows nothing about kids books)

Edward Necarsulmer – Agent at McIntosh & Otis
* The market will cycle – stay confident.
* Doesn’t like cartoony / computery images. Digital should be part of the process, rather than the only thing.
* Likes lighter, funny, every day things.
* Cautious about art, but likes portfolios that show versatility, people, movement, etc.
* Reps both art and text. Has maybe 1 client who is illustration only. The other illustrators are also authors.
* Marketing role is important now. It’s reality, and you need sales and marketing in your corner. The editor is also a sales person for your book.
* Calls the slush pile the "discovery pile"
* Play to your strengths.
* Will look at SCBWI stuff. Prefers query first, and make sure to include SASE!
* Loves author/illustrators
* Art should speak for itself, but query can be helpful to say why you chose to send your art / ms to them
* Advice for new illustrators: don’t give up, try to have ills appear in a way that he understands – cohesive fashion / narrative / part of story
* McIntosh &Otis reps Ed Young

Michele Burke – Editor at Knopf/Random House
* 4 years in the business
* Remain optimistic
* Likes to grow authors & illustrators with the house
* Doesn’t like cartoony / mass market art
* Likes art that tells a story, character driven, very expressive, narrative
* Collaborates with designers and not opposed to digital art
* Portfolio mistakes: stuff that’s not child friendly or appropriate for kids books
* Keeps an open mind about all other art
* Most things go to art department, but she does get some things and keeps an art file
* 1/3 – 1/2 of what she looks at is new
* Each season they have a brainstorm / artfest session to find illustrators for the PBs that don’t have them yet.
* Marketing and sales has input, especially for novel jackets. They are in the field, have experience, know what sells, and why or why not.
* Gets hundreds of unsolicited manuscripts a year, and publishes maybe one of them
* Loves author / illustrators, and likes to see the whole PB ms right away (no need to query first)
* Do your research, read and look at books, and see where you want to be.
* Do what you enjoy and feel you are best at and not what the market is telling you to do

Saturday, April 8, 2006

Poconos Conference Notes

2006 Poconos Conference

I got there the night before the conference started, so I had a chance to have dinner with Mindy and meet new friends like Leslie, Marie, and Ann. And the next few days, it was fun to meet Kelly, Rita, Julie, Pamela, Natishia, Kim, Janice, Ann Marie, Karen…and a whole bunch more people (I am so bad with remembering names, so please forgive me if I accidentally left you out, or jog my memory if I’ve forgotten your name, and I will add you.)

And now for the notes.

Luckily, Cheryl Klein has posted the notes from her talk here: http://mysite.verizon.net/vzeqjo1w/id15.html
Other comments that she had:
- They are looking for authors and illustrators that have a unique voice and style – something extraordinary / special.
- The focus of your book should be the overall emotional effect or journey. When editing, cut everything that’s not contributing or distracts from that.
- Publish 10-15 hardcover literary books a year (1/2 of the list are foreign books)
- Accepts queries from new & unagented authors – include something that shows what the book is really about, emotional content, or a small excerpt, etc.
- Start a story by getting the reader hooked first and not doing an info dump. You can time release back story in a novel. Examples where this is done well: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, and the first Harry Potter book.

Lindsey Barrett George
- Something must happen to a character in a book (even a pb)
- A pb has to work on many levels. Some examples: art, text, story, counting, friendship, etc.
- Her editor rejected one of her picture books. She looked at it again, found the core of the story and deleted everything else. (She kept only one verse from the whole thing.) She said that everything in the pb should be about the core of the story. BTW, that pb is now one of her most popular and best selling books.
- A Picture Book Is About
- Turning the pages, and how each picture follows the other ones
- Pictures and text that both tell a story. Sometimes pictures, sometimes text. They must balance each other out
- It doesn’t have to have a happy ending, but it does have to have a satisfying ending
- It is about an emotional reaction of experience
- Three Steps for an author/illustrator making a book
- 1. Writer’s job is to write an engaging story
- 2. Designer’s job is to make them want to know what happens next (page turns)
- 3. Illustrator’s job is to make them love and/or care about what you draw

The rest of these notes are from general sessions

Heather Delabre
- On inappropriate anthropomorphism: "If there’s no reason for them to be animals, they should be people, not kids with fur" (or feathers). To test for whether or not they need to be animals, she said that you should take out the animal stuff and imagine them as human characters. If that works, then nix the animals.
- Brevity is the key for a synopsis

Mark McVeigh
- Dutton is phasing out chapter books and easy readers, so you shouldn’t sub them
- They are also not doing novelty books anymore, like lift-the-flap books.
- Don’t send email subs.
- Send query and synopsis – even for a pb!
- Synopsis should include character, plot, & setting.
- The synopsis should be succinct, but intriguing.

Mary Lee Donovan
- Their list is 50% Walker UK, and 50% Candlewick
- They try for an international audience
- No email subs.
- Has eclectic tastes
- Likes complete novels

Julie Romeis
- Looking for new, fresh, American voices
- MG
- Contemporary stories
- They try for an international audience (Bloomsbury UK too)
- Likes fun, commercial, really kid friendly books
- No email subs

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Holy Mail Call Batman!

After being out of the office for a week (our office was closed), the nice folks from the post office called me to make sure I was there to receive my mail, then 3 separate mail carriers stopped by to deliver it. The first was a man I'd never seen before, who obviously has some anger issues that he decided to take out on the manuscripts he was delivering. The second was our regular mail carrier - she's really nice, and funny too. And the third was our regular USPS package guy - he's very nice as well, and he held some boxes for us that normally would have been returned to sender. Oh, and a new UPS guy stopped by too.

It was a busy day for YA manuscripts in my office. Now all I have to do is read them all :0)

Thursday, March 30, 2006

All About The Gopher

Caddyshack was on TV last night. And because I'm such a TV geek, I actually saw a show about Caddyshack a few years ago, and I know that Carl the groundskeeper (Bill Murray) was not originally the main focus of the movie. If I remember right, the gopher wasn't either.

You wouldn't probably know it, but the movie is actually about Danny, the caddy with a bazillion brothers and sisters, who is trying to find a way to go to college.

And of course, there are many other story lines that were added to showcase Rodney Dangerfield, Chevy Chase, and Ted Knight.

But Bill Murray stole the show with his pursuit of the gopher. His performance was mostly ad libbed, and the crazier he acted, the more time he got in the movie, until the movie is mostly about him and the gopher. Or at least that's what everyone remembers.

So what does this have to do with children's books?

It's all about telling a story that your audience will love. And sometimes that means pushing your main character back a bit to let one of the more interesting or unusual characters tell the story.

Do you have a gopher or Carl the groundskeeper hiding in your story? If so, let them out to play. You never know what will happen.

I'm alright
don't nobody worry 'bout me
why you got to give me a fight?
why can't you just let it be?
I'm alright
don't nobody worry 'bout me
why you got to give me a fight?
why don't you just let me be?
I'm alright...

Monday, February 6, 2006

Friday night in NYC and old conference notes

The night started out at a great cocktail party that bravebethany invited me to. Then Sasha (kestrella) and I booked over to the Hilton to catch up with Tracy (tab_walton), Angele (who's taking sarazarr's class with me), Cynthia, Amy (Amyo on Verla's), Heather (HB on Verla's), Danielle, Lisa, Diane, for a fun dinner at Cosi. We never did make it to the Strand because we were talking so much. Some of us even had a nightcap at the bar before heading home.

It was a great night, and lots of fun! We even took pictures...but since I don't have a digital camera yet, you'll have to wait until I use my film up to see the pictures - sorry!

I didn't get to the conference, or get to meet minabirdwriter - maybe next year :0)

p.s. tamarak started an LJ conference this weekend. I've put notes up on my blog in the past year, but here are some notes from before I had a blog:

SCBWI - LA Conference Highlights 2004

First Drafts: Many people talked about the importance of finishing a first draft. Just write until it's done. It doesn't matter if it's awful (it probably will be) or too short (Karen Cushman's are sometimes only 60 pages long.)
*Karen Cushman also said: "The first draft is for learning what the story is about."
*Donna Jo Napoli said: "The only goal of a first draft is to be finished. If at chapter 10 you realize you have to have a dog in the story that will change the whole thing, go back to page one and put a note: dog, and keep going."

Emotional Stories: Another theme throughout the conference was to make sure your stories strike an emotional cord with your reader.
*From Libba Bray: "You have to take emotional risks with your story."
*From David Levithan: "Emotions and characters need to be real and true, and something they (kids) can relate to."
*Donna Jo Napoli: "People read fiction to experience the emotions of the character."

General Market Rules that agent Jodi Reamer talked about
(characters should be no older/younger than market):
* YA: 40K–60K words, 12-16 years old
* MG: 30K–40K words, 10-12 years old
* Chap. Bk: 70-110 pages, 7-10 years old
* EZ: 50-80 pages, 5-8 years old (simple words, short sentences, engaging characters)
* PB: no more than 6ms pages, text and ill. equally strong if you want to do both, lush language

Quotes that are inspiring, or funny...
*Gordon Korman: " Look at 8th graders as New Yorkers – they’ve seen and done it all, and are not impressed by anything."
*Robert Sabuda: "Be open to suggestions" (He was talking about art, but it applies to writing as well.)
*Bruce Coville: "Character + Problem + Solution = Story" and "If you ain’t riskin’, you ain’t writin' " (Several people talked about how essential it is to take risks in your writing - this was my favorite quote.)
*Donna Jo Napoli: "Write what you know means go learn something."
*Jon Scieszka: "Give yourself time for stuff/crud to come together."

Critiques:
*Donna Jo Napoli: Give your (complete) ms to someone to read with 2 instructions:
1. If you don’t like it, stop reading. But tell me where and why.
2. If you do read it, tell me the emotions you have while reading.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Highlights and Lowlights from the Miami Conference

Highlights

I had a great time at the conference, and got a chance to meet mindyalyse! We managed to have lunch and dinner together on Friday, which was so much fun. I also got to meet Laura, Kim, Betty, Adrienne, Cana (from Verla's), Linda M (who was wonderful and took me to the airport), and Donna, and I'm sure a ton of other people I'm forgetting right now - sorry! LindaB (from Verla's) puts on a wonderful conference, and it was good to see her again. Plus, I got to talk to Libba Bray, and finally meet Arthur Levine. I also had critiques with Priscilla Burris and Frank Remkiewicz (who looks a little like Walt Disney). They were both wonderful and helpful and gave me a lot to think about!

Friday
First books panel It was really fun to hear how each author got their first books published. They also had some advice for the rest of us:
* Sherri North (The School That Sank) - Target the publisher that’s most likely to need/want your story.
* Jeanne Kraus (Corey Stories) - Follow our passions, and set writing goals.
* Carol Nevius (Karate Hour) - Part of her job as a picture book writer is to keep her illustrator employed – so that he doesn’t go to another publisher.

Query Letters panel with Arthur Levine (Scholastic), Alyssa Eisner (Simon & Schuster), & George Nicholson (Sterling Lord Literistic)
* The main themes here were to infuse your query letters with the same passion that you have for your book, to not write a generic query, and to make sure you target your subs well. One way to do that is to go onto the SCBWI site and look at the "Edited By" section. Also, sometimes art directors and designers are credited on the © page of a pb so you can see who they are.

Saturday
Bruce Coville – I saw him give this talk in LA…but it was still informative and entertaining. (Go see him if you get a chance.) Characters that the reader cares about must make moral decisions – it ups the action and emotion in your story. Also, you must take risks as a writer and jump off that cliff every time you sit down to write – it will be worth it in the end.

Ruth Vander Zee – Truth in good stories gives kids hope. The truth needs to be something kids can relate to whether you write fiction or nonfiction.

Libba Bray – Her talk was funny and full of information. (Go see her talk if you get the chance!!!) Writing for kids matters – we’re making readers. It gives kids permission to jump into a book and believe the story. She also urged us to write with passion and heart, and to make our book as strong and unique as it can be.

Jo S. Kittenger – Nonfiction - always keep footnotes (you never know when you might need that info) and send a great bibliography to the publisher.

First Page Critiques - The beginning should flow from the voice of a unique character, and not seem like an intro or explanation of facts; it should make the editor want to read more.

Arthur Levine - Why do you love the books you love? Where do you want to go as an author? Know yourself as a person and as a writer. (Mr. Levine posted the full text of his speech here: Arthur Levine's Blog)

George Nicholson – talked about what it means to be an agent, and what kind of responsibilities they have.

Priscilla Burris - The purpose of showing work is to be published. Work on your drawing skills and show images that evoke emotion. The first page in your portfolio should show what you love to do most, and the rest of the portfolio should follow that.

Alyssa Eisner - Likes historical fiction and MG fiction, not interested in dark YA. The Publisher’s Weekly twice/year children’s issue lists imprints and what they are publishing, which can help with your research in targeting your submissions. 3 key things you & your books need to get published – brains, heart and courage.

Sunday
Joyce Sweeney Plotting Your Novel – We did a workshop exercise from the book Screenplay by Syd Field. She said to use the plotting structures / rules / guidelines only when you get stuck. Don’t use them as a formula to create your book. If it’s working, don’t worry about the rules. Also, keep brainstorming and don’t go with your first idea – keep going until you get the best idea for each scene and plot point. It must have emotional satisfaction / be exciting, etc.

Lowlights

1. Always make sure you have your pb dummy, manuscript, or portfolio printed out, put together, and ready to go BEFORE the conference. Otherwise, you will be like me…sitting in the hotel room during the peer critique sessions and open mic, with glue all over your hands and a sore head from where you’ve been banging it on the wall, because you accidentally missed a bunch of pages at the beginning of the pb dummy, and now you have to rip out all the pages you already glued in, and re-glue them so you don’t have extra pages left over – grrrr!

2. Always make sure to set your alarm AND have a wake up call. Otherwise, you will be like me…snoozing through your alarm, even though you are a light sleeper, and waking up 2 hours later, only to realize that the first workshop of the day is almost over, and you better chow down some dry cereal and jump in the shower so that you’re not hungry or stinky, and don’t miss the second and final session of the day!

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Good News to start 2006

We're finally home!!!

Good News to start 2006
I found out that not only did I get into Wee Ones magazine for January, but I have the first featured story and illustrations too - yippee! Check it out: Brother Trouble

I am also in Kid Mag Writers this month, which artistq was wonderful enough to mention in her blog :0)
It's a spoof on my favorite MTV show for the In My Office column: I Want To Be Made

Back to work
I leave for the FL conference a week from friday, and I still have a lot of work to do on my 3 pb dummies and portfolio that I'm bringing along, so if you don't hear from me for a while, it means I'm covered in paint and pencil shavings :0)